How to Orient Parts for Strenth, Speed or Surface Finish

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Build optimization is dependent on a part’s function (conceptual model, functional prototype, manufacturing tool or end-use part). Based on the part’s function, the user must select the appropriate orientation to balance or optimize surface finish, strength, or build time of the part.

By following these best practices, you can cut down on time and waste.

  1. Step 1: Options

    1.1. Surface Finish

    Part orientation impacts surface finish due to the process of slicing and printing the part in increments in the Z direction. Orienting the part so that curved or angled surfaces are built parallel to the Z axis will result in smoother surfaces (Figure 1).

    1.2. Strength

    Proper orientation of a part can dramatically increase feature strength. Small features can become stronger by simply rotating the part (Figure 2). Generally, orienting a feature parallel with the build layer maximizes feature strength.

    1.3. Speed

    Part orientation can affect support material usage and build speed of the part. Rotating a part to a different orientation can decrease support usage and the build time of a part (Figure 3).

    In general, orienting to minimize Z height and support material will maximize the build throughput. However, it is recommended to orient the part for surface finish or strength, since orientations optimized for build speed can negatively impact strength and surface finish.

  2. Step 2: Orienting for Surface Finish

    STEP 1: Configure the modeler

    STEP 2: Open the STL file in the Insight software

    STEP 3: Identify the critical surface or surfaces of the part. When orienting the part, these surfaces should be built in parallel to the Z axis

    STEP 4: In the STL dropdown menu, select Orient by selected facet and select the desired content (Top, Bottom, Left, Right, Front or Back) (Figure 4)

    STEP 5: Click on the facet that you would like oriented in the selected context direction. The part will change orientation

    STEP 6: Slice the file. Click the button with four dashed lines to view all layers of the slices part and view from different angles to verify you have eliminated stair-stepping on the critical surfaces. If stair-stepping remains on a critical surface, re-display the STL and return to Step 3.

    STEP 7: Orienting for Surface Finish procedure is complete


  3. Step 3: Orienting for Strength

    STEP 1: Configure the modeler

    STEP 2: Open the STL file in the Insight software

    STEP 3: Identify how the part will be used and any forces that will be acting upon it. Also identify any functional features. When orienting the part, these surfaces should be built perpendicular to the Z axis and in orientations that maximize the surface area of these features (Figure 6).

    STEP 4: In the STL dropdown menu, select Orient by selected facet and select the desired context (Top, Bottom, Left, Right, Front or Back).

    STEP 5: Click on the facet that you would like oriented in the selected context direction; the part will change orientation

    STEP 6: Orienting for Strength procedure complete



  4. Step 4: Orienting for Speed

    STEP 1: Configure the modeler

    STEP 2: Open the STL file in the Insight software

    STEP 3: Identify the orientation that minimized the Z height and will also require the least support material (Figure 7)

    STEP 4: In the STL dropdown menu, select Orient by selected facet and select the desired context (Top, Bottom, Left, Right, Front or Back).

    STEP 5: Click on the facet that you would like oriented in the selected context direction. The part will change orientation.

    STEP 6: Slice the file.

    STEP 7: Click the button with seven dashed lines to generate supports.

    STEP 8: Generate toolpaths by clicking the green circle button.

    STEP 9: In the Toolpaths menu select Estimate time

    STEP 10: Click OK and the Insight software will calculate and provide an estimate of the build time and support material required (Figure 8)

    STEP 11: Orienting for Speed procedure complete.


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